Department of Justice sues Norfolk Southern following train derailment

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Norfolk Southern Corporation following the Feb. 3 trail derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The complaint was filed late Thursday on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.

It is seeking injunctive relief, cost recovery, and civil penalties for unlawful discharges of pollutants and oil or hazardous substances under the Clean Water Act. It is also seeking declaratory judgment on liability for response costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.   

In a news release, attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department and the EPA are pursuing justice for residents and ensuring that Norfolk Southern carries the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to cause.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the agency is delivering on its commitment to ensure Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage.

This complaint is after the EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to conduct all necessary actions associated with train derailment cleanup. On Feb. 21, Regan ordered the company to clean up all contamination in soil and water and safely transport that contamination. The agency also ordered the company to reimburse EPA for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses; attend and participate in public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online; and pay for the agency’s costs for work performed under this order. The release says the EPA has been overseeing Norfolk Southern’s work under the Unilateral Administrative Order. About 9.2 million gallons of liquid wastewater, and an estimated 12,932 tons of contaminated soils and solids have been shipped off-site.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division says they will tirelessly pursue justice for the people living in and near East Palestine, who like all Americans deserve clean air, clean water, and a safe community for their children.”

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio says the United States Attorney’s Office stands with the district’s residents in pursuing accountability and justice in both the immediate and distant future.

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